Feminism … Sexism … All the Isms

One cannot live one’s life based on what somebody else’s image of you might be. – Hillary

Isms, in my opinion, are not good. A person should not believe in an ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, “I don’t believe in ‘Beatles’, I just believe in me.” Good point there. After all, he was the Walrus. I could be the Walrus, I’d still have to bum rides off of people. – Ferris

I know you could care less who I’m supporting in the primary. I would never pretend I have sway over your opinion simply because you read my blog. After all, this is one of my favorite memes:

However, I find myself having interesting conversations about why I am so passionate about Hillary. The thing is: She’s important. The fact a woman could possibly win the Democratic nomination, and please, Sweet Baby Jesus, become President … just, wow.

Some context would probably be helpful.

The man I dated in college was a Republican. More than that, he was a Right-Wing, Christian Conservative Republican. It was a rough two years. But that’s another blog post.

Three days after we broke up, I sat in a booth with my friends at our favorite bar and proclaimed, “I will NEVER date another Republican.” And, seriously, as if on cue, my future husband walked through the door.

For the next 20 years, political discussion were off the table. I am the former VP of the Young Democrats at Hall High School (class of 89!). I’m the the girl who sported a “Put Hillary in the White House” bumper sticker during the Clinton/Bush campaign. I’m the grown up who still tears up when she hears the words, “I still believe in a place called Hope.” But my liberal heart seemed no match for his conservative mind, and so we quit trying to share our beliefs. And I resigned myself to the fact that we’d always cancel out each other’s vote.


Now, I’m dating a man who is addicted to CNN. He records all of the debates on DVR. We text back and forth about how Trump terrifies us. We jokingly make plans to pick up stakes and move to Canada if he wins. He sends articles to me comparing Bernie and Hillary.

And I like Bernie. He’s fine. But having a strong, smart woman “this close” to being a Presidential nominee is too big a deal for me to ignore.

My first job post-college was as a teacher-counselor at a treatment facility for at-risk youth. I joined a team of five staff members responsible for “parenting” a house of 10 adolescent boys who were victims of sexual abuse. I was the only female staff member.

One day, we took the kids swimming. I wore a conservative one-piece bathing suit. Instead of getting in the pool with the boys, I supervised from a lounge chair in the sun.

That night, after the kids were in bed, our Director called a staff meeting. He scolded me in front of my male counterparts for “tempting the boys.” He quoted a popular rap song, saying “Ms. Cobb, when you laid back on that chair all we could think was … what’s the lyric? ‘Wanna put it in so deep, so deep put her ass to sleep’.” He laughed hysterically. My coworkers laughed and gave each other high fives.

I was 22. I was embarrassed. I was scared. I’d like to say I resigned on the spot. I didn’t. Instead, I learned quickly my male coworkers saw me as different, lesser – a “threat” to the young men we were supposed to be protecting and nurturing.

A few years later, another boss told me, “I have to hire women for your position, because I can’t pay men enough to raise a family.”

I once asked a male coworker if he had a preference on how I handled an issue. He looked me up and down, grinned slyly, and said, “Whatever blows your skirt up.”

Yet another male boss was so condescending to female employees in meetings some of other the men in the room would visibly wince.

I was raised in a generation of women who were told we could be anything, do anything, achieve anything. We were encouraged to “have it all.” We all tried. So many of us have been successful. But it’s been in spite of our gender, and it’s come with a whole lot of sexist bullshit.

I am encouraged by Hillary, who has endured an onslaught of insults in her lifetime – more than I can even imagine. She is a bad ass. She stands up to the status quo. She stares down the Old Boys. She’s smart, fearless and unapologetic. She’s been labeled a bitch, a cold fish, a lesbian. A man is never questioned for being a bad ass. Instead, we say, with awe, “Damn, he’s got balls!”

I respect those who question her agenda. I know she’s polarizing. I know there are some who believe she’s just a cog in the political wheel. I get she’s not necessarily advancing a feminist agenda. But I believe she has the mind and spirit to lead this country. And it’s time a woman got a shot at it.

Plus, my daughter is watching. Millions of girls are watching. They need to know the American dream applies to them, too. That they can be anything, do anything, achieve anything … even POTUS.

That’s why #imwithher.

My Hometown (with thanks and apologies to The Boss)

I was eight years old and running with a dime in my hand
To the bus stop to pick up a paper for my old man
I’d sit on his lap in that big old Buick and steer as we drove through town
He’d tousle my hair and say son take a good look around … this is your hometown

I was born and raised in Little Rock. So was my Dad. I’ve always been proud to be a generational Little Rocker. My upbringing in my beloved hometown knit the fabric of the person I was, the person I lost sight of there for a while and the person I’m becoming again.

My early childhood was pretty idyllic. Our house was on a block full of children. We played Freeze Tag, Swing the Statue, Kick the Can and Piggy Wants a Motion (pretty sure we made that one up) late into the night during the summers.

I was on a first name basis with the pharmacist at the drugstore. He sold me ice cream and put it on my mother’s tab. My best friend and I met every Saturday and walked to Browning’s Mexican Restaurant for chips and dip. Then we squandered our allowance on video games at The Yellow Rocket. We saw movies at The Heights Theater and trespassed at St. John’s Seminary.

I learned politics and religion from my parents. My mother was the creator and sponsor of the Accept No Boundaries student organization at iconic Little Rock Central High. Her students wore t-shirts with a photo of a black child and white child hugging and a caption that read, “Nobody’s Born a Bigot.”

Growing up in the Episcopal Church, I had no idea there were denominations not accepting of anyone and everyone. I grew up under influence of strong female church leadership, including Mother Peggy, one of the first women ordained in the Episcopal Church. I remember attending an event with my mother where we walked from Christ the King Catholic Church on Rodney Parham to Temple B’Nai Israel to recognize the journey many Jews took during the Holocaust.

My children were born in Montgomery, Ala. My husband and I relocated there in 1997 for his job. I was pregnant with our son when his company closed. We entertained the idea of leaving at that point, but I had a great job. We had good friends. I loved my church. So we stayed.

Every time I’d visit Little Rock with my children, my heart would hurt. I’d spend the days driving the streets of my hometown, fondly recalling growing up in a small Southern town with lots of charm. I’d eat at all the delicious locally owned restaurants. I’d take long walks through the neighborhood, looking at houses and making up stories in my head about living in Little Rock again.

One summer, I sat at the pool with one of my best friends from high school. Our children frolicked in the kiddie pool. Coincidentally, it was the pool where my parents had been members when I was growing up. I learned to swim there. I had birthday parties there. I charged food at the snack bar there. I ogled the older boys. Again … idyllic.

As I sat there, completely content, I had what I have come to refer to as a full-on epiphany. A voice inside me said, “This is where I have to raise my children.” I’ve never believed anything so strongly. Within months, we sold our house, I found a job in Little Rock and we enrolled the kids in school and daycare.

I was home.

Words were passed in a shotgun blast
Troubled times had come to my hometown

There was a bit of a kerfuffle in Arkansas recently. You’ve seen the headlines, I’m sure. We now have a Religious Freedom Reformation Act on the books. It mirrors the Federal law, but many are still concerned – and rightly so — that it opens the door for discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson is considering signing an executive order creating a protective class for LGBT individuals. I truly hope he does, because regardless of the RFRA’s stated intent, there are too many people in the state who will use it to discriminate against anyone they perceive as different.

It breaks my heart that the same state where I learned to be tolerant, loving and accepting is now once again garnering national headlines for its open hatred of those considered “other.” The same state where I steadfastly believed I needed to raise my children is fast becoming the last place I want them living when they grow up.

I told a friend that I am so angry I want to throw things. I don’t know at whom said things will be thrown, but sometimes nothing gets the mad out like pitching a fit and throwing things.

Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more

And that’s another thing. When I made the argument for moving home to Little Rock, I told people that I wanted to live in a city my children could make their home after college. I dreamed of them and their spouses finding lucrative jobs and raising my grandchildren right around the corner from me.

But if Arkansas continues on this trajectory – and sadly I think we’re headed for many more years of crazy before it all dies down – there will be no lucrative jobs to be had. I am firmly convinced that no 21st-century companies will choose to set up shop in a state now known as one of the most anti-gay states in the nation. Plus, the businesses that are here now are going to have a hard time recruiting bright, talented, hard-working individuals to move here to work for them. I will have a hard time encouraging my children to stay.

Would the last forward-thinking, open-minded, whole-hearted individual to leave Arkansas please turn off the lights? Oh wait, never mind. We’re already living in the dark.

Last night me and Kate we laid in bed
Talking about getting out
Packing up our bags maybe heading south
I’m thirty-five, we got a boy of our own now
Last night I sat him up behind the wheel and said son take a good look around …
This is your hometown.

I asked my children a year or so ago, “Do you feel like this is your hometown even though you weren’t born here?” My son said, “Oh yeah. I don’t even remember Montgomery. This is where my friends are.  This is home.”

The other night, Emily and I were in the car driving east on Cantrell Road. We had just left my dad’s house and were heading to school to pick up Charles after his baseball game.  It was one of those spring nights where it’s just warm enough to roll the windows down.

As we cruised down Cantrell Hill from the Heights to Riverdale, I caught a glimpse of downtown and the Capitol. I looked over at my daughter, happy and content. I thought about how many times I’ve driven down that hill … first as a passenger with my parents, then behind the wheel as a teenager, now with my own kids.

Suddenly I heard that voice again, the same one I’d heard at the pool more than a decade ago: “This is where I have to raise my children.”

It’s not time to leave. There’s still too much good here and too much to be done to make this state better.

I smiled at Emily and turned the radio up. The wind whipped through our hair. We sang loudly to Taylor Swift, as we drove the streets of our hometown.